Wine, then dinner and discussion

Book club

October 24, 2002

An interview with Laura Wieder, a co-founder of the Sunday Readers book club.

Are you the discussion leader for your club? We don't really have a discussion leader. ... It's sort of like a dinner thing. We have appetizers and, you know, a bottle of wine, and then we have dinner later and discuss the book. So we sort of don't have anything formal.

What book are members reading this month? We're reading Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. We read The Poisonwood Bible that she wrote. It was sort of a mixed group: Some people really liked it and some people didn't like it. They thought it was sort of depressing.

Did it lead to a good discussion? Yes, yes, it did because ... there's a lot of different characters, a sort of weak father figure, a weak mother figure, mother/father conflict, family conflict. ... Some of the issues that were brought up by The Poisonwood Bible hit home: What would you do if this were your family and your children?

What other books have led to a good discussion? The Nanny Diaries we just finished reading. That's another one where we sort of all could relate to it, and then again some people really liked it and some people were really on the fence about it. But we all seemed to like the character discussion: What did you like about them? What didn't you like? How can we relate to them? How could they have done this differently? ... Two of the ladies in our group had been nannies, and one of them had been a nanny for two years in New York. ... Some of the stuff that was written in this book was sort of unbelievable. We were saying, "How could this be true? No, parents don't act like this." And she said, "Oh, yeah, they do. You'd be surprised." And then we asked, "Well, how could you stay?" And she said the character in the book stayed because she loved the little boy. She got attached to the child. And she said once you do that, it's really hard to leave. That's what happened to her.

Has there been a book that stood out as a real favorite? No, I can tell you one that has not been a favorite, though. We read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. ... It was written in that '60s/'70s style that's very philosophical. It was about a father and a son, and they go on this motorcycle trip, and the father keeps referring back to this Phaedrus. And what I gather from the book is this Phaedrus was a philosopher, and the father keeps referring to him as if, you know, they're one and the same, the father and this Phaedrus. It was too heavy for our book club. If you had a degree in English literature, you probably would have liked it, but none of us did.

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